On the Social Media Fast

This past General Conference, the prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Russell M. Nelson, challenged women during the women’s session to go on a 10 day “fast” from social media. Basically, step away from the online world for those days. Specifically, he said

I invite you to participate in a 10-day fast from social media and from any other media that bring negative and impure thoughts to your mind. Pray to know which influences to remove during your fast. The effect of your 10-day fast may surprise you. What do you notice after taking a break from perspectives of the world that have been wounding your spirit? Is there a change in where you now want to spend your time and energy? Have any of your priorities shifted—even just a little? I urge you to record and follow through with each impression.

As a result of that challenge, many of my female Latter-day Saint friends have disappeared from Facebook for the past 10 days. I’ve very much noticed their absence. People who I regularly hear from and interact with, and who regularly comment and interact with me online, just vanished.

I have mixed feelings about the challenge, though I’ll lead off by saying that this is just my personal reaction, and (not being a woman) I’m not going to get into how it would affect women. Mainly, I’ve been thinking about the purpose of the fast and whether such a thing would be a good idea for me to do myself, and what I would do if/when I were issued such a challenge.

My first observation is that the first two sentences of the challenge don’t quite seem to be asking the same thing. There’s a big difference in my mind between “media” and “social media.” I’m always in favor of taking a quote in context, and it seems to me to walk away from that challenge thinking what’s intended is to give up Facebook and Instagram for 10 days is kind of missing the mark.

To me, it’s a request to prayerfully consider what media elements you should personally include in that media fast, and to specifically try to avoid ones that invite negative/impure thoughts for 10 days. That list will be different for each person. If I were to do such a thing, I would likely include most of the films and television shows I watch, and many of the regular books I read, and perhaps most of my video games. I don’t know that I’d give up Facebook and Twitter, since I already curate that list a fair bit. (I cull out people who consistently are negative or confrontational, as I don’t have the emotional capital to blow on those interactions.) I would likely use the “snooze” function liberally for those of my friends who still were posting things that were bringing me down for those 10 days. (You can temporarily hide a friend for 30 days on Facebook.)

I would continue blogging, but I would likely not engage in any negative conversations for that time frame. Not sure what I’d pick for topics.

It’s an interesting challenge, one which I’d probably compare to my giving up sugar for stretches at a time. I would imagine it would result in some retuning of priorities, and so perhaps I should give it a shot at some point. (At the same time, much of what I do with writing depends on me being current on media trends and approaches, and so I’m doubtful I’d end up going whole hog and giving all of it up. And I already am selective on what I do and don’t watch, believe it or not. It’s just my definition of “selective” might be a fair bit different than many other Latter-day Saints’.)

But as for the strict shuttering of Facebook accounts for a 10 day stretch? I can’t help but think that might have more negative effects for some than positive. (Again, it all depends on the person.) I know when we first moved to Maine, Denisa felt very cut off from the rest of the world and her friends. The advent of Facebook really helped with that. And personally, it’s felt bad to suddenly lose so many of my regular friends online. I miss their input and their perspective. (Though I suppose it’s good to see how valued and missed that perspective can be.)

In any case, I’m glad it’s winding down now, and I look forward to seeing them all come back.


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  • By Gretel, October 17, 2018 @ 10:18 am

    Howdy from the social media fast! I haven’t included checking your blog in that fast, so I have been keeping up with you in more stalker-like fashion. For me, totally going off Facebook and Instagram for 10 days (this is my final day) has been enormously eye-opening. I deleted both apps from my phone so I wouldn’t be tempted to cheat, and I will not be re – adding Facebook after this. It was a huge time suck for me. Almost any time I had downtime I was opening the app and it was impacting my productivity and my engagement with my kids. I will probably check it via the computer once a day or so from now on, because I do miss interacting with friends and family and seeing everyone’s pictures, but I do NOT miss scrolling idly through multiple times a day and wasting time watching videos and reading random news items or parenting opinions or drama going on. Also, your recommendation of The Good Place couldn’t have come at a better time, since for the most part that has been a positive show that I felt okay continuing to watch. So there is my perspective on it!

  • By Bryce Moore, October 17, 2018 @ 10:21 am

    Thanks, Gretel. I do think it’s a useful activity to decide how to spend your time and get a handle on things. Though I also think being very selective on what you allow into your feed can help as well. That said, most of my Facebooking occurs at work during breaks, so it’s not like I notice it sucking my time away.

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